What a strange year 2020 was, in so many ways. Here, a look at the numbers for The Scholarly Kitchen for the past 365 days.

2021 written in sand with waves erasing 2020

This year we continued to expand our Guest Post offerings to help further increase the diversity of voices offering opinions in The Kitchen. We featured 57 Guest Posts this year, an increase of 14% over last year, totaling 24% of our posts. In addition, we had 16 interview posts, bringing in even more voices. As always, your voice is welcome too, and if you’re interested in writing a Guest Post, here’s how it generally works.

We published 242 total posts which had over 1.67M views (passing 14M lifetime views) and totaled over 344,000 words. 2020 was a strange year for our readership, which declined for the first time since 2016. We dropped by some 0.6% (around 9,000 views) compared to last year. Interestingly, readership was up over 8% through the first half of 2020 (including our highest ever month of readership in May), but then declined by 13% over the second half of the year as compared with 2019. I attribute some of this to fatigue, as by the end of our pandemic year, we were all a bit tired of staring at screens. We do seem to be broadening our reach at least, as 2020 saw a 19% increase in the number of visitors to the site compared to 2019.

Our top 10 countries in terms of readership are (in order) the US (52%), UK, India, Canada, Germany, Australia, Netherlands, Japan, France, and China.

The Scholarly Kitchen’s most read posts during 2020 were as follows:

  1. Guest Post: Think Sci-Hub is Just Downloading PDFs? Think Again
  2. Guest Post – MDPI’s Remarkable Growth
  3. Luck, Superstitions, and Rationality — Black Cats, Broken Mirrors, Ladders, Salt, and Umbrellas
  4. Changes to Journal Impact Factor Announced for 2021
  5. Guest Post: The Problem with Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity
  6. A Confusion of Journals — What Is PubMed Now?
  7. New Chinese Policy Could Reshape Global STM Publishing
  8. Building Your Remote Workforce: Including Tips & Tricks for Social Distancing
  9. Sci-Hub: How Does it Work?
  10. Taking a Big Bite Out of the Big Deal

If we limit the most-read list to posts that were published in 2020, our top posts for the year are as follows:

  1. Guest Post – MDPI’s Remarkable Growth
  2. Changes to Journal Impact Factor Announced for 2021
  3. New Chinese Policy Could Reshape Global STM Publishing
  4. Building Your Remote Workforce: Including Tips & Tricks for Social Distancing
  5. Taking a Big Bite Out of the Big Deal
  6. India’s Fight Against Predatory Journals: An Interview with Professor Bhushan Patwardhan
  7. Revisiting in a New Light: A Conference Call in Real Life
  8. What Do Libraries Keep When They Cancel the Big Deal? 
  9. Forecasting the US Higher Education Market: A Primer
  10. Academic Libraries at a Pivotal Moment

It was pointed out to me that, as we see for journal article metrics, posts from earlier in the year have an advantage over those posted late in the relevant counting period. So, adjusting the list for views/days available in 2020, Changes to Journal Impact Factor Announced for 2021 was the overwhelmingly most active post for the year, as it came out in December yet was still the 4th most read post all year.

And I think that speaks to how dominant the Impact Factor remains, despite eight years of DORA and countless denouncements of the measurement’s continued misuse by the academic community. The rest of the 2020 post list shows the shifting nature of the market as open access policies and strategies have begun to really take hold, as well as the effects that the pandemic has had (and will continue to have) on scholarly communications.

2021 promises to be a difficult year all around, as likely budget cuts are going to are going to stymie both traditional activities (e.g., subscriptions) as well as progressive activities (e.g., investing in new open access models). On top of that we’ll see the added pressures of implementing the very complex and controversial regulations and restrictions of Plan S.

So to paraphrase Bette Davis, fasten your seatbelts, 2021 is going to be a bumpy ride.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.